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New book exposes how regulation has failed to protect casino gamblers

6 May 2011

A new book to be launched tomorrow (Saturday 7 May) by Deakin University's gambling expert Associate Professor Linda Hancock examines the practices inside Australia's largest casino – Crown Casino –and outlines how the regulatory system has failed to protect gamblers.

"Regulatory failure? The case of Crown Casino" is believed to be the first systematic independent Australian research on casinos.

"Casinos account for 18 per cent of Australia's $19 billion gambling industry," Associate Professor Hancock explained.

"Yet what goes on inside them has been closed to public scrutiny until now.

"Casinos have gone 'under the radar' because of the focus on gambling in clubs and pubs; the politics of regulation and the close relationships between the gambling industry and the state governments which are dependent on gambling tax revenue, about 10 per cent nationally."

Associate Professor Hancock's book uses Crown as a case-study to examine how regulation and enforcement of responsible gambling work in practice in a liquor-licensed casino environment.

The book gives a detailed report of interviews with 225 Crown Casino employees covering responsible gambling, responsible service of alcohol (RSA), safety and staff training.

Interviews reveal incidences of:

• breakdowns in implementation of Crown Code of Conduct on responsible gambling
• unacceptable levels of violence
• poker machine players regularly urinating and even defecating on the gaming floor because they don't want to stop playing the machines
• patrons being allowed to gamble while intoxicated even though this is against the law in Victoria
• low awareness amongst staff of the "signs" of problem gambling in the Crown Code
• inadequate and 'phantom' training of staff
• ineffective implementation of codes of conduct.

"Staff reports point to a 24 hour venue with inadequate standards of enforcement, bar revenue targets and exhortations to 'keep people gambling' and spending," Associate Professor Hancock said.

"The reported regularity of patrons being served alcohol to the point of intoxication (necessitating exit from the premises) beg questions about the efficacy of the Responsible Service of Alcohol provisions. "

Associate Professor Hancock said her analysis showed that both gambling and liquor licensing regulators are 'light touch'.

"Both gambling and liquor licensing regulators show a preoccupation with compliance issues and inadequate focus on consumer protection and public safety via Responsible Gaming and Responsible Service of Alcohol.

"This 'light touch' regulation of Responsible Service of Alcohol Regulation and the dual track system of liquor license enforcement by Responsible Alcohol Victoria and Victoria Police is also not working to prevent risky drinking.

"I believe we should look to international best regulatory practices in Casinos in Switzerland, Canada and New Zealand."

Associate Professor Hancock said the extent and nature of the range of concessions afforded to Crown Casino was a national concern because it was being held up as an exemplar of best practice yet the study showed this assumption needed to be questioned.

"I also ask, does the government's adoption of the model of 'responsive regulation' work for 'dangerous consumptions?," she said.

Regulatory failure? The case of Crown Casino will be launched by Senator Nick Xenophon with speaker Tim Costello, CEO World Vision Australia

11:15 am, Saturday 7 May, Avenue bookstore, 127 Dundas Place, Albert Park in Dundas Square, at the intersection of Victoria Avenue and Dundas Pl. Opposite the Albert Park hotel.)

News facts
  • 'Regulatory failure? The case of Crown Casino' is believed to be the first systematic independent Australian research on casinos
  • Crown Casino used as a case-study to examine how regulation and enforcement of responsible gambling work in practice in a liquor-licensed casino environment
  • Analysis shows both gambling and liquor licensing regulators are 'light touch'

Media contact

Associate Professor Linda Hancock
0417 057 501
linda.hancock@deakin.edu.au

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6th May 2011